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Quite simply, a person with self-respect believes that he/she deserves justice, and is much more likely to pursue it through any means available. Throughout history, women's suffrage, the NAACP, the Black Power movement, etc. have all sought as an initial goal to convince their own membership of their self-worth, of their own humanity and equality. This was empowering to the individuals within those groups because it gave them the confidence to take action, and it was the action, rather than the organization, that actually helped them to make progress towards justice.
Regarding a sense of honor and self-respect:
Here are some resources for you. For the books that I list, you do not have to read the whole book; use the table of contents and the index to choose what is pertinent to your question. These references concern the restoration of honor through violence or the threat of violence. Your teacher may have some other method in mind.
Don’t worry if you do not have access to all of these references, for, if your high school is no more rigorous than was mine, your teacher will be happy if you use any one of them. Your teacher may be able to recommend one for you to look at (or your school librarian). Is there a nearby university library?
Save this bibliography, as it will make a good one for a research paper by yourself or one of your friends in your college history course.
Baldwin, Joseph G. 1853. "Justification after Verdict" in The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi. Find this one on the Internet.
Clay. 1861. "Farewell Remarks to the U. S. Senate upon Alabama’s Secession," Congressional Globe, (Jan. 21),
Crowther, Edward R. 1992. "Holy Honor: Sacred and Secular in the Old South," The Journal of Southern History, LVIII, 4 (Nov.), 619-636.
Eaton, Clement. 1976. "The Role of Honor in Southern Society," Southern Humanities Review, 10 (suppl.), 47-58.
Gass, W. Conrad. 1979. "‘The Misfortune of a High Minded and Honorable Gentleman’: W. W. Avery and the Southern Code of Honor," The North Carolina Historical Review, LVI, 3 (Jul.), 278-297.
Greenberg, Kenneth S. 1996. Honor and Slavery. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Longstreet, Augustus Baldwin. Ca. 1835. "The Fight" in Georgia Scenes. Find this one on the Internet. I think the table of contents is screwed up so that you will have to scroll down through the pages to find this story.
Stowe, Steven M. 1987. Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of the Planters. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Chapter 1 is "The Affair of Honor: Character and Esteem."
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. 1982. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. Oxford University Press. I think chapters 2, 3, and 4 may be what you are looking for, and maybe the Preface, too.
Even though some people think that there is little or nothing to learn from fiction, so often literature provides examples for readers of how people react in certain situations. In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance, Bob Ewell, the father of the girl who claims she was raped by a black man, vows revenge against the lawyer for the man's defense after the trial. In town, he tells people that he will get even with Atticus Finch. When Atticus Finch does run into him, Ewell spits in the face of the attorney. With dignity, Atticus Finch turns and heads home. After he arrives home, he merely makes the comment that he wishes Bob Ewell did not chew tobacco. It is only later that the family learns what has transpired.
Well respected and a gentleman, who is "civilized in his heart" as his neighbor Miss Maudie declares, Atticus Finch realizes that the insult to him has been made by someone with no integrity, so he is oblivious to any insults by him as they are meaningless, anyway. Since he has already fought the true battle against injustice in the courtroom, there is no need to continue any disputations with a hostile witness who has lied.
A person with self-respect will respond differently to injustices than a person who lacks self-respect. When a person respects him/herself, he/she also has self-confidence; that person likes who he/she is. This type of person will not be a hothead, a person who reacts to injustices without thinking. This type of person has nothing to prove about him/herself, but he/she will most likely want to fight against whatever injustice he is faced with. This is because a person with self-respect is usually not the kind of person who would let someone get away with doing something wrong. This person would stand up against racism, stereotyping, prejudice or any other kind of injustice. When a person looks in the mirror and likes what he sees, it is most often for a good reason. That is why the person who has self-respect would be more likely to get involved in fighting injustice, but she would fight in a legal, moral way. It would not involve violence or hurting others in any way. I think a great example of this type of person is Martin Luther King, Jr. He responded to injustices using nonviolence and changed our nation.
Personally, I think that the more that you respect yourself, the less drastically you will react to injustice. I think that if you have a great deal of respect for yourself, you will not feel that how others treat you is so important.
If you respect yourself, you do not really need other people to treat you in a given way. You will feel that you are a good person not matter what. If you are insecure about yourself, you will be more caught up in what others do. You will worry that they are not giving you enough respect and so you will overreact to injustices. If you respect yourself, you will be able to keep your composure when faced with injustice.
I do not think there is any direct link between the feeling of self respect in an individual and response of that individual to injustice. A self respecting individual may feel more acutely the injustice done to him or her. But then, true justice is more centered towards others than towards self. Also the being intellectually or emotionally aware of injustice and fighting injustice are two very different things.
As a matter of fact there are enough instances when people avoid situations where they may be insulted. Many times such behavior is motivated by a feeling of self respect. But such avoidance behavior also frequently means overlooking rather than fighting injustice.
I strongly believe that only self-respecting individuals can respond positively to the question of justice. The foundation of social justice is respect for all classes of men and women irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, gender, economic status and so on. Whenever and wherever there occurs an injustice, there must be a lack of respect on the part of the offender(s) towards the victim(s).
Only a self-respecting individual can really conceive of respect for others. Only a self-respecting individual can clamor for justice for himself/herself as for others. Self -respect breed an innate sense of justice, and inculcates righteousness. Absence / lack of self-respect loosens moral integrity devalues the importance of justice in both private/domestic and public/social spheres.
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